A Father’s Day memory

Pat n Patti

(I wrote this three years ago today, on June 15, 2011. I reprint it here in honor of Father’s Day and my dad Pat.)

 

I opened his closet door and reached for the dog hair covered sweater. I touched its soft threads and recognized its familiar colors. It’s a sweater I’ve seen my father wear a hundred times before, to walk his dogs or to go to the post office or simply sit in his office to write. I draw my face close to the wool and take a slight breath.

All around this house is my dad. The only thing missing is him…

What is it? What is that scent? Is it my dad? Is it the trace of his aftershave or cologne? I don’t know. I close my eyes and remember him.

I sit in his office chair, in front of his computer, and settle myself into the well-worn leather. His desk is a mess and his office is a cacophony of paper and stuff, just like mine, and I smile and appreciate that I am my father’s daughter. A writer. A creative person, operating in a bit of an organized chaos.IMG_1192

In this chair, at this desk, is where dad found his comfort. It’s where he wrote, emailed, talked on the phone, talked to his dogs. A salt shaker sits in front of his keyboard, a reminder of how he used to eat snacks and occasional meals in front of his computer. Over there is a pair of sneakers on top of a pile of papers. Pens, pencils, paper clips and books. It’s where he conducted his life and kept his brain sharp. And, it is just as he left it one month ago when he flew off to Cleveland with great hopes of being healed of the cancer that had invaded his body and the assumption, the expectation, that he would be back home in Idaho by now.

columnist_patmurphy3 (2)I leaf through the stacks of papers on top of his desk and find a recent photo of him looking robust, cheeky and happy. It’s the look of a man who is content to live in the mountains, to walk his two oafish Labrador retrievers along the river, and then come back to his den and write pithy and brilliant newspaper columns, just as he has done every day during his 60 years as a journalist.

And because he took his dogs everywhere, his sweats and sweaters and jackets were always festooned with hair from his four legged best friends, which made no matter to him.

Dad has a funny grey mustache and scraggly grey eyebrows, and also a beautiful smile and piercing light blue eyes. When he walks through the house he whistles and  hums as though he’s slightly distracted or deep in thought.

His dogs sleep at his feet in his office as he writes and hums and listens to booming philharmonic music, all while typing his stories with two-fingered ferocity. Twice a day, my father would load the mutts into his SUV and take them hiking along the river, and then to the post office and the grocery store, where he’d pull up and knock on the plate glass window and Sue, the customer service gal, would come out to pat the dogs’ heads, give them kisses and feed them cookies.taterspud

And because he took his dogs everywhere, his sweats and sweaters and jackets were always festooned with hair from his four legged best friends, which made no matter to him.

 

It is June, 2011, and my dad and mom left home one month ago for his surgery, which unexpectedly went very bad and left him barely alive. Every day, every hour, we hope to hear news. No one knows how long I will need to live here in my parents’ house, alone, away from my own home and community. Weeks? Months? I don’t care. Whatever I can do to help …

I walk his dogs for him, I pay his bills, I handle his household, because he is 1700 miles away in the Intensive Care Unit at the Cleveland Clinic.

Photo0075_001Photo0058_001 (2)Every day I pile the dogs into my dad’s SUV and take them to Adam’s Gulch, where we walk through the forest. They sniff and pee, and run up the trail, always discovering something new, even though they’ve been on this path hundreds of times before with my father.

I waited for the voice of God to blow through those pine branches, just like they did when I was 8 years old.

Today, as I shuffled along the shaded dirt path, strewn with pine cones and rocks and forest droppings, I heard the wind blowing deeply through the boughs of the pines. I stopped, shut my eyes and listened. This was the same sound, the same experience I remembered from being a little girl in Florida, walking through the pine tree grove near my house and hearing the whoosh of wind blowing through the branches. Back then, I would sit and listen to the whispering breeze and believe in my child-mind that it was the still, small voice of God speaking to me. Today in this forest that memory returned and I waited for the voice of God to blow through those pine branches, just like they did when I was 8 years old.

Back at my father’s house, I wandered into his bathroom and smelled his cologne and decided it would be a good fragrance for me today, so I dabbed it on my wrist.

All around this house is my dad… my dad’s stuff, my dad’s presence. The only thing missing is him.

I say a prayer for my father. It is just another one of the many prayers I have said for him over the past several weeks, always petitioning God to pull my dad through this crisis and bring him back to his beloved home in Idaho, where he can again wear his dog haired sweaters and hike through the whispering pines, with his four-legged companions by his side.

I will live in his home for another two months, waiting, praying and keeping it ready for his return.

08-02-27 Murphy mug

Note: My dad finally did get back to Idaho in August, 2011, but never fully recovered his health and died on October 1, 2011. I think of him every day.

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2 Responses

  1. Jean says:

    Hi Patti,
    I came across your web site, I adore Eagle, Idaho. We hope to move there in a few years when we retire.
    I feel your pain of losing your Father, mine passed away from Multi-Myloma on July 20th, 2011. Worst pain a person will ever endure losing a loved one, everyday even now & I imagine I will always feel that empty void in my life.

    I don’t know much about you, but your story has me very interested in reading more about you & your life.
    Perhaps someday our paths will cross if you still live in the Eagle area.

    Enjoy the day & thanks for sharing your stories, I have a feeling I am going to love reading more! =)
    Best, Jean

    • Murphy says:

      Thank you Jean, I appreciate you stopping by Murphy Writes and also your kind comments. I agree with you about losing a loved one. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my father and miss him. I am sorry for your loss as well. I don’t know if it gets easier over time, or if we just learn to live in a different reality 🙁 Eagle Idaho is a beautiful town, I live just about 5 minutes up the road from there. You will love it! Thanks so much again for your input!